Toxic Algae in Southwest Florida : The Blame Game

Southwest Florida is known throughout the United States for our many beautiful natural lakes, rivers and white sand beaches. Green water ridden with toxic algae in Southwest Florida isn’t the first thing to come to mind, yet the foul-smelling algae is becoming a growing problem, polluting our Southwest Florida waterways and killing our wildlife. Outbreaks have occurred from an increase in nitrogen and phosphorus caused by the presence of pollutants, sewage, manure and fertilizer in our waterways. Blue green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are tiny organisms found in our water. The algae can has been blamed for respiratory issues, poisoning the fish that we eat, decreasing waterfront property values, and even killing those that come in contact with it. For many years, septic systems have been the scapegoat for the cause of toxic algae, with rumors citing partially or untreated sewage leaks from septic tanks as the cause.

While septic systems continue to receive blame, industrial polluters continue to dump thousands of gallons of raw sewage into the environment. Despite continued changes to clean water standards, pollution from these sources poisons our waterways that supply our fresh drinking water and are the backbone of our tourism. While heavy regulation on industrial waste since the 1970’s has improved the amount of pollutants from industry sources, municipal sewage treatment is another source of pollution that requires additional attention.

Municipal wastewater treatment plants are a major contributor to the toxic algae growth issues. According to AmericanWaterIntel.com, 78% of Clean Water Act enforcements from 2006-2011 were against municipal wastewater systems. In comparison to septic tanks which, when maintained and inspected regularly, can last a lifetime – municipal wastewater treatment plants are responsible for treating a great volume of water. These facilities, which tend to require extensive repairs over time, service hundreds of neighborhoods. Heavy rains, a normal occurrence in Southwest Florida summertime, cause wastewater plants to become overwhelmed. This sometimes results in the release of untreated wastewater into our rivers and other waterways.

There are many factors that contribute to the toxic algae slime in our waterways. Rather than playing the blame game, it’s important that we not only acknowledge the many sources of toxic algae, but help minimize them. The Sierra Club has come out with a Slime Tracker that shows the presence of the toxic algae throughout the state. Join in our efforts and sign their petition to clean up toxic algae in the state of Florida.  In our next blog, coming out later this week, you’ll learn more about what you can do to reduce your footprint on our precious local waters.  Together we can make a difference. Please contact Crews Environmental for your Southwest Florida septic pump out and help be part of the solution.

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